Coronavirus and the Sun
A lesson from the 1918 influenza pandemic
Fresh air, sunlight and improvised face masks seemed to work a century ago; and they might help us now.
When new, virulent diseases emerge, such SARS and Covid-19, the race begins to find new vaccines and treatments for those affected. As the current crisis unfolds, governments are enforcing quarantine and isolation, and public gatherings are being discouraged. Health officials took the same approach 100 years ago, when influenza was spreading around the world. The results were mixed. But records from the 1918 pandemic suggest one technique for dealing with influenza — little-known today — was effective. Some hard-won experience from the greatest pandemic in recorded history could help us in the weeks and months ahead.
Put simply, medics found that severely ill flu patients nursed outdoors recovered better than those treated indoors. A combination of fresh air and sunlight seems to have prevented deaths among patients; and infections among medical staff. There is scientific support for this. Research shows that outdoor air is a natural disinfectant. Fresh air can kill the flu virus and other harmful germs. Equally, sunlight is germicidal and there is now evidence it can kill the flu virus.
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